If you tuned in to see the hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today – if you didn’t you missed out – you may have been surprised to see Mark Milley sitting there. You remember Milley, he’s the fleshy, hooded-eyed man who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is also a national disgrace, a living insult to the military he oversees. That’s not an insult. It’s objectively true. And yet somehow — despite the overwhelming evidence that Milley is dishonest, incompetent, partisan and dishonorable — he still has a highly prominent job. That’s the amazing thing. And not only is Mark Milley still employed at the highest level, he is still lying, and doing so with his characteristic relish and enthusiasm. Today, for example, with an entirely straight face, Milley delivered an impassioned monologue about the importance of civilian control over the military. “This country doesn’t want generals figuring out what orders we are going to accept and do, or not. That’s not our job.”
Oh really? Is that so Mark Milley? Isn’t this the same Mark Milley who once illegally seized personal control of our country’s nuclear arsenal? And then, when that wasn’t sufficient, promised to tip off the government of China about future American military operations — and did all of this because he didn’t like his boss, who unlike him, was a civilian elected by voters? Yes, it’s the same Mark Milley, the one lecturing you about civilian control of the military.
It was all pretty amusing in a dark way, but it did make you wonder: what is this about? Why is Mark Milley saying something so obvious preposterous? It’s got to be helping him in some way. And indeed it was helping him. What you watched in the Senate hearing today was pure blame-shifting. Joe Biden’s foreign policy is a legitimate disaster. No one disputes that. Mark Milley wants you to know that none of it is his fault. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wants you to know that too. So does the head of Central Command, General McKenzie. All three of them want to make it crystal clear that the senile guy in the White House did this. It’s his fault, not theirs. It was Joe Biden, they told us today, who forced American troops to leave Afghanistan before we evacuated all American citizens. Because the Pentagon reflexively follows every order from the president to the letter, they had no choice but to obey these crazy decisions. They explained:
COTTON: General Milley, it’s your testimony that you recommended 2,500 troops approximately stay in Afghanistan?
MILLEY: Yes my assessment was in the fall of 2020 and remained consistent throughout that we should keep a steady state of 2,500 and it could bounce up to 3,500. Somethings like that.
COTTON: General McKenzie, do you share that assessment?
MCKENZIE: Senator I do share that assessment.
COTTON: President Biden last month in an interview with George Stephanopoulos said no military leader advised him to leave a small troop presence in Afghanistan. … Did these officers and General Miller’s recommendation get to the president personally?
AUSTIN: Their input was, was received by the president and considered by the president for sure. In terms of what they specifically recommended, senator, they just as they just said, they’re not going to provide what they recommended in confidence.
Following this? Wheels are officially coming off, but woah what sleaze balls these guys are. “We told Joe Biden to keep 2,500 troops in the country. We demanded it. On the other hand, because we are bound by the ancient and sacred rules of confidentiality, we can’t tell you what we told the president because that would be wrong.”
These people so thoroughly deserve each other. It is wonderful to see them rat each other out, which is exactly what they proceeded to do for the entirety of the hearing. General McKenzie explained that, despite the fact he personally oversaw the disaster in Afghanistan, he really had nothing to do with it. It was all demented grandpa, pulling the strings from the White House:
MCKENZIE: I won’t share my personal recommendation to the president but I will give you my honest opinion, and my honest opinion and view shaped my recommendation. I recommended we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. I also recommended earlier in the fall of 2020 that we maintain 4,500 at that time. That was my personal view. I also have a view that the withdrawal of those forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan government.
What a dirtball that guy is. “I can’t share my recommendation, but here was my recommendation.” Take those medals off, you don’t deserve them.
Until today, the generals and their many allies in government have been undermining Biden indirectly. Far be it from us to defend Joe Biden, who deserves no defense, but it is a defense of the American system which works well when civilians control the military. Up until today, they have been leaking Biden’s phone calls with the president of Afghanistan. That’s illegal, but they did it anyway. They have been giving nasty background quotes to their stenographers at NBC News about what a dope Biden is. All true, but still, they’re not allowed to do that. But today’s performance took place in public. It was on the record and under oath. In that performance, they directly contradicted their boss, the commander-in-chief. As a reminder, here’s what Biden was saying just a few weeks ago on ABC:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But your top military advisors warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.
BIDEN: No, they didn’t. It was split. That wasn’t true. That wasn’t true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn’t tell you that they wanted troops to stay?
BIDEN: No. Not at — not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a timeframe all troops. They didn’t argue against that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So no one told — your military advisors did not tell you, “No, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It’s been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that”?
BIDEN: No. No one said that to me that I can recall.
It’s not a defense of any of them. They’re all so awful and so undeserving of leading this great country. They should not be in charge of this country. It’s too good a country for people like this. So the generals claim they told Biden the Afghanistan withdrawal would be a total disaster. Biden claims they didn’t tell him that. The question is who’s lying? Someone’s lying. Biden himself has no idea. He doesn’t know who’s lying. He doesn’t know what he had for lunch. All we know for sure — and this is the main point — is that no one in Pentagon leadership will ever be held accountable for this, the latest in a very long string of colossal screw-ups that have dramatically reduced American power and prestige and gotten a bunch of people killed. No one. This is unbelievable. Let’s say you worked at a nuclear power plant, had too many beers on your lunch break one day, fell asleep and the reactor melted down. Thousands died. And then you got a massive raise. That’s pretty much what’s happening here.
The House of Representatives just passed a $776 billion defense budget. How big is that? That’s fully $24 billion more than even the White House even requested. In other words, Congress just threw in a little extra for a job well done — a bonus for the generals who left $80 billion dollars worth of American military equipment for the Taliban to use. Good work guys.
So it’s official now: no one will be punished for any of it. Not for abandoning Bagram Air Base. That was idiotic. Everyone knew it. They did it anyway. Not for leaving American citizens behind as they fled. Not for leaving our troops exposed to the suicide attack that killed thirteen young American servicemen. Not for the drone strike that blew up children, the one they lied about for weeks. The people who did these things are in great shape tonight. They’ll retire exactly when they feel like retiring, at which point they’ll get full benefits and jobs at Lockheed. That’s how our system now works. It’s very very frustrating. Not because recrimination is good. But because in order to function, a system has to be accountable.
As of tonight, there is only one man in the entire US government who’s being punished tonight for the failure in Afghanistan. Just one man. His name is Stu Scheller. He’s a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps. He’s an honorable and honest man. He’s also blameless. Scheller had no role in any of these decisions. His crime was criticizing those decisions. In August, he posted this video on the Internet:
SCHELLER: If an O-5 Battalion commander has the simplest live-fire EO complaint. Boom. Fired. But we have a Secretary of Defense that testified to Congress in May that the Afghan national security force could withstand the Taliban advance. We have Chairmen of Joint Chiefs who the commandant is a member of that, who is supposed to advise on military policy. We have a Marine combatant commander. All of these people are supposed to advise. And I’m not saying we have to be in Afghanistan forever. But I am saying did any of you, throw your rank on the table and say hey it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, the strategic airbase before we evacuate everyone?
So that’s an honorable man. That’s a man who’s in it for the right reasons, not to get promoted or work at Lockheed, but because he cares about the country and wants to defend it. There’s a man who believed in his superiors, who is not cynical, who is genuinely confused by his superiors’ unwillingness to admit their own error. His confusion comes from decency. Almost immediately Scheller’s superiors reacted to that video. They didn’t apologize for the disaster they caused. They didn’t explain why they did what they did. They punished Scheller. They relieved him of his command. They told him to shut up and stop talking. But he didn’t stop talking. Here’s how Scheller responded.
SCHELLER: To recap my position in the fallout of Afghanistan, I demanded accountability of my senior leaders, I stated then that I understood that I might lose my battalion commander seat, my retirement, and my family stability. As it has played out, I have, in fact, lost all three of those things. Would I do it again? … I don’t know. My name is Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller and I was the only officer in the entire American coalition fired in the debacle of Afghanistan fallout. I acknowledge I should’ve been fired; however, the hypocrisy of the general officers not being held to the same standard is a microcosm for the entire problem that it’s going to bring down the great institutions of this republic we love.
So that’s the man you want serving in your officer corps in a serious country. A person who takes his job seriously, who’s patriotic, who’s honest, who demands accountability. And before you say “well, it’s the military, they don’t have freedom of speech, you’re not allowed to give a political statement,” two points. One: That was not an inherently political statement, in contrast to point two, the endless number of openly partisan statements from the leaders of the Pentagon. Mark Milley was openly thrilled by the election of Joe Biden. Was he punished for that? No, he was elevated. Congress just rewarded him and the entire leadership of the U.S. military with $24 extra billion.
But to Scheller for telling the truth, here’s what happened to him. Military brass forced Scheller to undergo a psychological evaluation because only a crazy person would ask for accountability after the disaster in Afghanistan. Then, when he wouldn’t admit he was crazy, they threw him in jail, where he sits tonight. Scheller’s father just released this statement, explaining that his son is now behind bars with violent criminals. How long is he there? He is there indefinitely. This is happening tonight in America. Here’s a quote from his father, “All our son did is ask the questions that everybody was asking themselves, but they were too scared to speak out loud. He was asking for accountability. In fact, I think he even asked for an apology that we made mistakes, but they couldn’t do that, which is mind-blowing. … They had a gag order on him and asked him not to speak. He did speak, and they incarcerated him. They don’t know what to do with him.”
One of the worst stories of our time, and there are a lot of bad stories.
This article is adapted from Tucker Carlson’s opening commentary on the September 28, 2021 edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”